He survived a war, only to die on a crowded London street, at the foot of a building he didn’t jump off.
He’d spoken to Harry on the phone the day before he shipped out, weeks of silence broken by the very sobering thought that they were really the only family each other had anymore.
John, she said. Come home.
Not come home in one piece, or even come home safe. Just ‘come home’.
He’d never spoken to anyone but his therapist about what happened over there. Over there, where the sun was too hot and the sand itched in places he couldn’t reach and his friends were mowed down like blades of grass in the hot wind. He never spoke of the traumas or the nightmares, though few others must have known, or at least suspected. He didn’t like to think about how many friends and colleagues he’d lost, because if he went there he’d never come back, and alcoholism runs in the family.
He still doesn’t like to think about what he’s lost, though an empty canvas stretcher in a hospital tent is easier to ignore at night than an empty flat. A flat that should have more sounds, more smells, more stuff lying around, just more.
He came home from the war, only to fight another. Different, far more fun, usually less dangerous, sometimes not. But it was a daily battle and he loved it.
He survived roadside bombs, and blistering heat, and even a bullet, all to die by the hand of a madman and an idiot.
He owes his life to his one true friend. He owes his death to him too.
If he thinks long and hard enough, wishes it for just one more day, he might just hear him.